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Posted on May 15th, 2014 (3:13 pm) by Ben Welton

There are cups of tea. This is not mine. Some people like sugar and some people like sour, but me—I like explosions. I am a big, dumb idiot. Well, I’m actually pretty short, but you get the idea. As a self-proclaimed Wagnerian, I like bombast, bass, and beautiful women wearing winged helmets. I like wild hunts and wild horns. Basically, when it comes to music, I dig sturm und drang and I’m into the decidedly sublime elements of electric guitars, sonic rhythms, and the occasional clamoring of a streetwise linguist.

Tori Amos, who is known for making music that white people like, doesn’t fit any one of these particulars (although you could make the case that she is beautiful). Speaking honestly, I have spent the better part of my life avoiding Tori Amos. During the first half, I associated Tori Amos with my mother’s friend, who, besides bragging about being at the first Lilith Fair, was keen on correcting my gender assumptions. I was 9 years old at the time.

In the later stages of my young adulthood, I came to equate Tori Amos with an officemate who categorized everything either as “hoooorrrrible” or “GENius!” He was, to put it mildly, a bit dramatic. But, overall, he was a good egg, and despite knowing better, he would always offer to talk music. He’d start the inevitably short conversation with a discussion about how Tori Amos is an intellectual heavyweight (she is, and Unrepentant Geraldines certainly reaffirms that she’s a smartypants). After that, the floor was mine to ruin, and when I started talking about King Crimson and Converge, I felt like I was screaming during meditation or farting through someone’s Chopin playlist.

Now, in May 2014, I am forced to confront my red-headed menace. I must, for the sake of God, country, and Ernie Pyle, write an even-handed and emotionally detached album review.

But you know what? I can’t do it, and since this little word vomit concludes my IYS career, I’m going to have a little fun as I ride the escalator down to obscurity.

First of all, let’s get one thing straight: Tori Amos is a great songwriter. Unrepentant Geraldines, which returns Amos’ to her indie pop rock neo-hippy dippy roots, bubbles over with allegory and is soaked to the bone in storytelling. Both “America,” which opens the album, and “Wild Way” represent the United States as a lovelorn woman who is on the one hand tired, while on the other still deeply attached to her inborn wildness. This is all despite the apathy of unnamed lovers and citizens.

Speaking of citizens, the ninth track, which is entitled “Giant's Rolling Pin,” takes on the recent NSA scandal with a Mr. Magoo-like sense of innocent indignation. When Amos bumbles “I’m off to find the giant’s rolling pin,” she sounds a tad bit like Miss Marple running out to save St. Mary Mead.

Far from being the album’s only blunt reference to modern politics, Unrepentant Geraldines more often than not strives to strike a populist sense of disenfranchisement with The System. From the catch-all of “corporate greed” to the record’s overall fetishization of childhood, Unrepentant Geraldines feels and tastes like a college town market co-op replete with bumper stickers and flyers for palm readings run by derelicts who spend all their time at the public library.

On tracks such as “Selkie,” “Promise,” and “Unrepentant Geraldines,” Amos gets back to the meat of the matter, or at least the bone she likes to pick: the inner life of women as best embodied by herself. From what I can tell, this is why she’s loved. Coming stock with a soft and unoffensive piano and a silky voice that sounds as grand as taco grande, Amos is the singer-songwriter for a million young girls grown too old too quickly. She’s the fey and flame-haired troubled spirit of the music industry, plus she’s capable of shocking everyone now and then (Did you know she’s covered “Raining Blood” and frequently pays homage to Led Zeppelin?). She has a pure heart, and when she gets on the microphone, those seated at the wine bar turn around and listen.

Still, to me, she’s music’s version of the New York Times “Opinion” section. She’s NPR behind horn-rimmed glasses. She probably reminds me too much of my mother. In short, she’s talented and her records are great, but I don’t like her. Excuse me, I'm going out for coffee.

Track List:

  1. America
  2. Trouble's Lament
  3. Wild Way
  4. Wedding Day
  5. Weatherman
  6. 16 Shades of Blue
  7. Maids of Elfen-Mere
  8. Promise
  9. Giant's Rolling Pin
  10. Selkie
  11. Unrepentant Geraldines
  12. Oysters
  13. Rose Dover
  14. Invisible Boy
Amos hits fourteen
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

62 / 100
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